The NGFA’s 2019-2020 class of the Committee Apprentice Program (CAP) spent time in Washington, D.C., this week, where they met with government agencies and officials pertinent to their particular committees’ issues and advocated on behalf of the grain, feed, processing and export industry on Capitol Hill. This is the sixth annual class of CAPs under a program first envisioned in NGFA’s 2012 Long-Range Plan.
Twenty-six CAPs discussed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, waterways infrastructure funding and rail issues with their lawmakers, visiting a total of 21 congressional offices.
Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., kicked off the Capitol Hill visits by sharing her experience as a freshman member of Congress, and voiced optimism on the development of an infrastructure package. She credited the value of relentless hard work for helping land her in Congress. As a former reporter, head of Human Resources at St. Jude Medical and current congresswoman, Craig described her career path as more of a “jungle gym” than climbing a ladder. When considering a career move, Craig recommended placing a priority on learning and continued education in one’s field.
In addition, the CAPs met with Reps. Jackie Walorski. R-Ind., Adrian Smith, R-Neb., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Mike Bost, R-Ill., and Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
They also met with staff members from the offices of Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio., Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., Sharice Davids, D-Kan., Tom Emmer, R-Minn., Steve Scalise, R-La., Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, Bryan Steil, R-Wis., Emmanuel Cleaver D-Mo., Sam Graves, R-Mo., Mark Pocan, D-Wis., Sean Casten, D-Ill., and Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. This was the first congressional advocacy experience for virtually all 26 CAP participants. It is this continued engagement and the willingness of NGFA-member companies to engage with Capitol Hill that can drive successful policy outcomes for the grain, feed, processing and export industry. As Rep. Walorski told a group of CAPs during their visit: “Stay Involved. You’d be surprised how much of a difference you can make.”
NGFA’s CAPs also spent a day with NGFA staff and their committee staff liaisons visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Surface Transportation Board, as well as hitting some Washington attractions like the National Archives and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I enjoyed getting to know everyone better professionally and personally,” said Rail Shipper/Receiver Committee apprentice Andrew Spain, western rail merchandiser at Louis Dreyfus Co., Kansas City, Mo. “[The] camaraderie, lobbying, sightseeing…all will have a lasting impact on my career and life.”
Trade Rules Committee apprentice Brandon LaShure, grain buyer at POET Grain LLC in Alexandria, Ind., said lobbying on Capitol Hill was one of his favorite parts of the trip. “I was very happy with the entire experience…It has been something I personally will not forget,” he said.
“I had a great experience in D.C. It was my first time going there and you guys knocked it out of the park,” noted Country Elevator Committee apprentice Kalen Vandenberg, senior grain merchandiser at Central Valley Ag Coop in York, Neb. “[I]t really makes me thankful to have an organization like NGFA who is lobbying on our behalf which allows us to continue our work.”